Better late than never for Intel’s low power chip

haswell

Intel is very serious about low power chips, although it won’t have them until 2013. The company showed off the long-rumored Haswell chips at its developer forum on Tuesday, which it says can run all day and offer a 20x reduction in power compared with existing chips. Intel also convinced Google to support x86 chips for its Android tablet and phone software. So Intel is serious about mobile, and enabling mobile devices with long battery life, but will the industry buy it?

That question won’t be answered today, but Intel is in the very least trying to avoid being a mobile loser as Qualcomm and other vendors using the ARM architecture make strides inside tablets and smartphones. Intel’s fighting to control the consumer computing market as consumers want low-power portable devices, while also trying to continue its expansion on the server side, where it has seen tremendous growth.

The Haswell products, which unfortunately won’t be out until 2013, will have 10 days of standby battery life, which puts Intel into the same league as ARM’s designs. However, it’s unclear where vendors such as Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Apple and other ARM licensees might be in terms of performance and power consumption at that time. And while software platforms are now tuned to Intel and ARM-based chips, Intel lost out on a huge advantage by being slow to cut power consumption. A year ago, before Microsoft committed to support ARM-based chips, Intel had a significant advantage.

Intel is also going to have to fight to get its way into handsets, which can take a long time. For example, Nvidia launched its first application processor in 2008 and only scored some major wins in devices in 2011. Handset makers aren’t eager to pick up new-fangled chips in their devices, so it can take a while. However, in the tablet market, Intel could pick up traction, as enterprise customers are already in favor of using Intel on the devices judging from Cisco’s efforts with the Cius tablet.

Haswell, which Intel showed off running on a solar panel, also may have a spot in the micro server market, according to Andrew Feldman, CEO of SeaMicro. SeaMicro makes a rack of servers that use Atom chips today, but could end up using high-end Atom chips or low-end Haswell chips. By covering both ends of the low-power market, Intel is signaling it’s serious about low power, both for the client side and on the server side.

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